CINCINNATI -- Carlos Delgado will be sidelined for a week to 10 days with a strained muscle in his right hip, a significant blow to the New York Mets as they try to protect first place in the NL East.

The slugging first baseman hurt himself on an awkward swing during an 11-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night. Mets manager Willie Randolph and a trainer came out to check on Delgado, who stayed in the game and struck out.

He was sent back to New York for an MRI exam Wednesday that detected a strained right hip flexor.

"Anytime it's one of your big guys, you get concerned," Randolph said.

The test results were announced as the Mets headed for the airport following a 7-0 loss to the Reds on Wednesday. They could play Shawn Green, Marlon Anderson and Jeff Conine, who was obtained from the Reds in a trade last month, at first base while Delgado heals.

"It's too early to discuss any other options," said Tony Bernazard, the Mets vice president for player development.

The Mets will be without Delgado as they begin a potentially pivotal stretch. After a weekend series against Houston, they host Atlanta and Philadelphia next week, when they'll have a chance to open up some breathing room against their top two pursuers.

New York leads the NL East by five games over the Phillies. The Mets were swept four games in Philadelphia last week, cutting their lead to two. Then they went on a five-game winning streak that stretched it back to five. The Phillies also lost on Wednesday, keeping the margin at five.

Late in a disappointing season, Delgado was starting to go on a tear at the right time. He hit his 22nd homer Monday and has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, with four homers during that span.

Green has started three games at first base this season. He is batting .276 with eight homers and 42 RBIs in 110 games overall, batting near the bottom of the order.

"I feel I've kind of stepped into a different type of production," Green said following Tuesday's win. "I'm more of a swing guy. It's a different role. I've accepted the fact that I'm not one of the guys in the middle of the lineup carrying the team anymore."

The Mets got Conine from the Reds for two minor leaguers on Aug. 20, a day after infielder Damion Easley went on the 15-day disabled list with a severely sprained left ankle. Conine played first base on Wednesday and went 0-for-4, leaving him batting .260 overall with six homers and 34 RBIs.